By James Nelson
SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) - A Utah church is giving away free copies of the Koran in an Easter season ecumenical riposte to the recent burning of the Islamic holy book by a controversial Florida pastor.
The Wasatch Presbyterian Church has ordered 50 copies of the Koran to be distributed at a local bookstore starting on Monday.
"We're not promoting Islam, we're not saying the Koran is the Bible," said Scott Dalgarno, the church's pastor. "We're just saying that if people are curious, if they want their consciences informed on this issue ... then let them pick up a copy on us and read it and decide for themselves what to think."
Dalgarno says each Koran, which the world's nearly 1.6 billion Muslims believe is God's final testament, will have a bookmark insert that reads: "This book was donated by the leaders of Wasatch Presbyterian Church who are not afraid of truth wherever it can be found."
He said the giveaway was a response to Terry Jones, the leader of a fringe, fundamentalist church in Gainesville, Florida.
In a move that prompted riots in Afghanistan, Jones' tiny church in northern Florida burned a Koran last month following a mock "trial" of the text.
"When we found out that Terry Jones had actually carried through on this and 20-plus people had died as a result we thought we can't stay silent here," said Dalgarno.
Jones was in court on Friday in Dearborn, Michigan -- home of one of the largest Muslim communities in the United States -- where he wants to hold a demonstration outside the Islamic Center of America, the largest mosque in the country.
Dalgarno says he has received some negative feedback since word of the Koran giveaway was announced but that he would do the same thing for other faiths.
"If someone in Salt Lake burned a copy of the Book of Mormon, we'd probably do the same thing," he said. "We'd buy copies of the Book of Mormon and say read it and inform your conscience."
(Editing by James B. Kelleher and Peter Bohan)